NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Once again, New Brunswick finds itself at the center of the biggest political battle in the state.
In the same luxury hotel where partisans fought over which towns would be grouped with each other in districts for state-level elections, a new group with a similar charge will determine the boundaries of New Jersey’s 12 federal election districts. In 2012, each district will hold an election to send one representative to the US Congress.
The purpose of re-districting is to ensure the districts encompass roughly the same number of voters and the commission is charged with using data from the 2010 US Census to that end.
An interesting caveat in this year’s re-districting discussion is that the comission must find a way to draw only twelve districts, down from the thirteen they drew 10 years earlier. This means that at least two incumbent Congressmen (there are no women in NJ’s delegation) will be forced to face each other in a primary or general election.
According to PolitickerNJ.com, a source said two scenarios unfolded initially: one placing Republicans Scott Garrett and Leonard Lance in the same district, and another where Democrats Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman could face off.
The commission has until January 17 to decide on a plan for New Jersey’s new Congressional boundaries. It consists of six representatives each from the two major parties, as well as one independent member, Rutgers-Newark Law Dean John Farmer, who will almost definitely serve as the tiebreaking vote.
Rutgers Professor Alan Rosenthal served as the tiebreaking vote during state-level redistricting earlier this year. He eventually selected a map favored by Democrats. In the ensuing elections, all incumbent Democrats kept their office and one Republican was voted out, partly due to the changes in district boundaries.
Frank Pallone has represented New Brunswick in the US Congress since 1992, when “his” district was re-drawn to include the Hub City. It remains to be seen if the boundaries of that district, the 7th, will be changed.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.